States Pass Immigration Laws as Congress Stalls

Rather than wait for Congress to act, many states have taken action addressing immigration issues.

Americans want immigration reform. Unfortunately, Congress doesn’t seem to care what the American public wants.

Absent real comprehensive immigration reform at the Federal level, 43 states and Washington D.C. have passed a total of 377 laws and resolutions related to immigration, according to the National Conference of State Legislators’ Immigration Policy Project.

But just like Congress hasn’t been able to agree on much of anything, the states have varied greatly regarding what kind of laws are needed in their own communities.

For example, lawmakers in Colorado, Oregon and Minnesota all made it easier for undocumented immigrants to be eligible for in-state tuition at state colleges and universities.

In Utah, students will be required to show proof of citizenship, or that they are eligible non-citizens, to receive federal financial aid. Indiana’s legislature passed a new law that requires citizenship verification for applications for college financial aid. Fifteen states now offer in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants.

Colorado and Georgia followed several other states in allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, including New Mexico, Utah, Washington, Illinois, Nevada, Oregon, Maryland, Vermont, and Connecticut.

Virginia enacted a new law that requires the state Board of Elections to participate in a national system that aims to eliminate undocumented immigrants from voter lists.

Illinois allocated money for bilingual education and designated funding for immigrant integration services. New York also set aside money for those who speak limited English, while Washington State set up a fund to help employ refugees and immigrants.

Georgia legislators passed a bill to require public employers to verify legal status. A new Arizona law will require proof of citizenship or legal status before someone is admitted to the Mining Advisory Council.

Though if there’s anything that the states agree on, it’s that they need federal action. State legislators passed 25 resolutions specifically asking the federal government to respond to aspects of national immigration policy. Eight states passed resolutions calling for comprehensive immigration reform.

It’s time for Congress to act on immigration reform.

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